Every year, the EGU, European Geosciences Union, gives awards to prominent researchers. Joseph Sedlar at the SMHI has received the award for outstanding young researchers in the field of atmospheric science for his inspired and creative analyses of Arctic clouds and their impact on the summer surface energy balance of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean and for unselfish contributions during Arctic field work.
Can you tell us a about your work?
“I spent the past two and a half years on leave of absence from SMHI to work at Stockholm University. Here I have carried out experimental research around on one of my favourite research interests: Arctic clouds. I have spent a considerable portion of my career as a researcher on developing and improving process-level understanding of mixed-phase clouds and their importance for the energy balance of the Arctic sea ice and snow surface. My research uses observations made in the high-latitude Arctic. I have been involved in 2 expeditions on-board the icebreaker Oden,” Joseph Sedlar says.
What does the award consist of?
“Fortune and glory! No, just kidding. Mainly this award is based on honour and recognition. I would like to express my gratitude to those who nominated me for this award,” Joseph says.
What will happen next?
“I continue to work with detailed observational data from the high-latitude Arctic. Additionally, I am working more towards evaluating and incorporating satellite-based observations of high-latitude cloud and surface properties. These measurements have the advantage of observing the Arctic over long time periods compared to short, intensive Arctic field campaigns. We are still a long way from truly understanding the complex processes and process-interactions between the Arctic surface, atmosphere and clouds – which means more work for me!
Unique clouds in the Arctic
Joseph Sedlar’s research covers Arctic clouds.
Despite the relatively cold atmospheric temperatures over the polar region, clouds there are often made up of a mixture of liquid droplets and ice crystals, which are referred to as mixed-phase clouds. There are a number of reasons why mixed-phase clouds thrive in the Arctic; one such reason is that the Arctic atmospheric composition is relatively pristine. Such unpolluted conditions tend to limit the amount of ice formation, allowing liquid to persist.
Over the Arctic, clouds generally have a warming effect on the sea ice surface, especially if they contain liquid droplets. This means that the presence of clouds often increases the energy at the surface capable of melting ice during summer.
“This is different and unique to the average global cooling effect clouds have on Earth’s climate system. Therefore understanding Arctic clouds, their distribution, and composition is extremely important for the climate of the Arctic,” Joseph explains.
Some key findings from Joseph Sedlar’s research include identifying and quantifying a thermodynamic regime in which Arctic low-level clouds have a significantly different thermodynamic structure compared with similar clouds found further south. Joseph Sedlar has focused on understanding the importance of cloud-generated dynamics in determining the lifecycle of mixed-phase clouds. Additionally, he has investigated how the actual amount of liquid water present within mixed-phase clouds supports turbulent mixing, which may feedback onto the actual cloud properties.